Senior Executive Profile
Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., has been president of Saint Leo University since 1997, and has guided the institution to its impressive level of enrollment with more than 16,000 students, including those who service in our armed forces, reservists, veterans, and their families. Dr. Kirk has worked along with members of his administration to strengthen the educational opportunities Saint Leo makes available to the military community. He also strongly believes in the importance of highlighting that bond with symbols and events so that others across Florida (and the nation) can better relate to student-soldiers and student-veterans. Question: How do you serve the military and veteran population in Florida? Answer: In many ways, with classes “on ground,” as we say, and online. We have continuing education offices or centers on military bases, such as MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa; Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, the Naval Air Station in Key West, at Eglin Air Force Base. We have centers and offices in other communities where veterans live in Florida (www.saintleo.edu), and our University Campus in Pasco County, where the university was founded, enrolls veterans alongside traditional aged students in weekday classes. The Adult Education Center is also at University Campus, and offers classes during weekends and evenings. On campus and off campus, in Florida and in other states, “on ground” and “online” we educated over 5,000 active duty servicemen and women and over 5,200 veterans last year and the numbers of veterans pursuing their degrees at Saint Leo continues to increase substantially. Our director of Veteran Student Services, Dr. Jose Coll, works at University Campus, and is a discharged Marine himself. He teaches social work in addition to heading Veteran Student Services. Our faculty and staffers——who include many veterans——continually seek to understand our veterans, not just as a group, but as individual students, so that we can best meet their needs, educational and personal. This runs through our culture. Question: What is the story behind the military sculpture at University Campus? Answer: It is called For Those Who Serve. I had a concept of a sculpture honoring our military men and women, as well as our faculty and staff who are dedicated to teaching this population of students. And I recalled how important our University Campus is to all our military students, because it gives them a touchstone. So we commissioned a sculpture that stands in the center of University Campus to honor this special group of men and women who stand in harm’s way so that we can live and study in this peaceful environment. The artist, Dexter Benedict, created life-size figures to represent the branches of the service: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, and the five of them are standing together in a circle holding Lady Liberty above their heads. The five figures include four men and one woman, and have facial features that don’t reflect any particular ethnic group. The artist made them that way specifically to honor the diversity of the armed forces. Question: What else do you have planned of interest to veterans? Answer: We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary of supporting the military from Veterans Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2013 across the university. We will have special programs, events, and services in our locations in Florida as well as six other states, to bring the community together during this time. These events will be posted on our website.